A jury at the Missouri Circuit Court has awarded the estate of a Birmingham, Alabama woman $72 million compensation for ovarian cancer caused by talc.
In October 2015, Jackie Fox (62) lost her battle against ovarian cancer two years after being diagnosed with the condition. Before she died, Jackie – who had used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for most of her life – discovered research that suggested there may be a connection between the talcum powder used in the product and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Jackie sought legal advice and claimed compensation for ovarian cancer caused by talc. She was joined in her legal action by almost sixty other cases, and her claim became the lead case in a class action against Johnson & Johnson. Following her death, the claim for compensation for ovarian cancer was pursued on her behalf by her estate.
At the Missouri Circuit Court in St Louis, Johnson & Johnson contested the claim on the grounds that the cause of Jackie´s cancer was not known and therefore could not be attributed to her use of baby powder. However, lawyers for Jackie´s estate produced an internal memo suggesting that the company had been aware of the risk of cancer since 1997.
At the end of the three-week hearing, the jury found in Jackie´s favor. It awarded the estate $72 million compensation for ovarian cancer caused by talc – $10 million for Jackie´s wrongful death and $62 million in punitive damages. Jury foreman Krista Smith later told reporters: “It was really clear they were hiding something. All they had to do was put a warning label on.”
The company has already said it will appeal the jury verdict and the award. In a written statement, Johnson & Johnson spokesperson Carol Goodrich said “the verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products.” She cited research by the FDA and National Cancer Institute that contradicted research presented in court.
Should Johnson & Johnson´s appeal be unsuccessful, it is likely that the award of compensation for ovarian cancer caused by talc will be significantly reduced. Stanford University law professor Nora Freeman Engstrom told the Associated Press: “Big jury verdicts do tend to be reined in during the course of the appellate process, and I expect that to be the case here.”